News Wrap: Warm embrace of Obama sign of how far Vietnam-U.S. relations have come

JUDY WOODRUFF: Good evening. I'm Judy Woodruff.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And I'm Hari Sreenivasan. Gwen Ifill is away this week.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On the "NewsHour" tonight:

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: It is my responsibility as commander in chief not to stand by, but to make sure that we send a clear signal to the Taliban and others.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Calling the action an important milestone for peace, President Obama confirms a U.S. drone strike kills the Afghan Taliban leader — what this means for the fight against the terror group.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Also ahead this Monday: As candidates head West, our Politics Monday team breaks down the latest in the race for the White House.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Plus, during President Obama's trip to Vietnam, we take a look at the generation who moved back after escaping the atrocities of war with their parents.

QUYNH PHAM, Art Gallery Owner: My mother, who I am very close to, she actually flat-out told me that I'm no longer her daughter if I come back to Vietnam.

HARI SREENIVASAN: All that and more on tonight's "PBS NewsHour."

(BREAK)

HARI SREENIVASAN: A historic moment in Hanoi today. The United States formally dropped its prohibition on selling weapons to Vietnam. It highlighted the dramatic turnaround in relations between the two former enemies.

John Yang has our report.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This change will ensure that Vietnam has access to the equipment that it needs to defend itself and removes a lingering vestige of the Cold War.

JOHN YANG: In Hanoi, President Obama officially ended the more-than-four-decades old arms embargo.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: At this stage, both sides have established a level of trust and cooperation, including between our militaries, that is reflective of common interests and mutual respect.

JOHN YANG: That mutual respect was on full display during the first of Mr. Obama's three days in Vietnam. He was greeted at the presidential palace by a military honor guard. At night, hundreds of people lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the president as he left a noodle shop.

The warming extends to commerce, too: American and Vietnamese companies signed deals worth $16 billion. Lifting the arms embargo reflects growing U.S. concerns about China's military buildup and territorial ambitions in the South China Sea. China's efforts to exert more naval control over shipping lanes in the sea is troubling to both the United States and Vietnam.

While acknowledging the shared concerns, Mr. Obama said ending the embargo was about warming relations between two former foes.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The decision to lift the ban wasn't based on China or any other considerations. It was based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam.

JOHN YANG: China's immediate response was muted, but human rights groups said Vietnam was getting a reward it didn't deserve. They have long criticized Vietnam's communist regime for repressing dissidents. Even as he praised the two nations' reconciliation, President Obama underscored differences over democracy and human rights. Tomorrow, he meets with Vietnamese dissidents.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

HARI SREENIVASAN: We will focus on the phenomenon of Vietnamese Americans returning home later in the program.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In Iraq, government troops have launched a much-anticipated offensive to retake Fallujah from Islamic State fighters. The city about 40 miles west of Baghdad has been under the militant group's control since January 2014. Today, Iraqi forces pushed their way into nearby farming areas. They were backed by U.S. coalition airstrikes and paramilitary troops.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Islamic State bombings in Syria killed nearly 150 people today and wounded at least 200 more. Five suicide attackers and two car bombs hit government strongholds in the coastal cities of Jableh and Tartus. That area is home to Russian military bases.

ISIS also claimed responsibility for twin bombings in Yemen that killed at least 45 people there. The victims had gathered at army recruiting centers in Aden.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The leader of an anti-immigrant party in Austria came within a whisker today of being elected president. His support showcased rising opposition both to migrants and to the European Union.

James Mates of Independent Television News reports.

JAMES MATES: Austria held its breath. Much of Europe held its breath. The country interior minister walked solemnly to the podium to declare whether the far right had made the biggest electoral breakthrough since World War II.

By just 31,000 votes out of 4.5 million, Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party had been kept out of the presidential palace, conceding defeat on his Facebook page, but promising supporters he will be back. The country's new president is the mild-mannered economics Professor Alexander van der Bellen backed originally by the Greens, but then by everybody as they tried to keep the far right out.

So Europe will breathe a sigh of relief, but cannot ignore the biggest lesson here, the collapse of the center and the rise of the extremes of both left and right. Centrist politicians who face wipeout point out it's far from just an Austrian problem.

Should the rest of Europe be worried about this?

JAN KRAINER, Social Democrat MP: I think the entire Europe should worry about what is going on in the entire Europe, without specifically looking into in one country. It's not that what is going on in Austria is so much different from what is going on in very many other European countries.

JAMES MATES: At a party in a Vienna beer garden last night, Norbert Hofer was prematurely celebrating victory, but 49.7 percent of the vote is hardly a defeat.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Center-left parties have dominated Austrian politics since World War II, but they were eliminated in last month's first round of voting.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Back in this country: The U.S. Supreme Court struck down the murder conviction for a death row inmate in Georgia because of racial bias in picking his jury. Timothy Foster was convicted in 1987 of murdering an elderly white woman. The high court ruled 7-1 that state prosecutors violated the Constitution when they excluded blacks from his jury. Foster is now eligible for a new trial.

JUDY WOODRUFF: A Baltimore policeman was acquitted today in the death of Freddie Gray, an incident that sparked riots in the city last year. A judge found officer Edward Nero had little to do with Gray's arrest and death in custody. Nero still faces an internal police investigation. In all, six officers were charged in the case. The trial of the first ended in a hung jury. We will examine the verdict and its implications later in the program.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A major takeover bid today in the farm chemicals industry. Germany's Bayer offered to buy Monsanto for $62 billion. The Saint Louis seed giant specializes in crop seeds and the widely used weed killer Roundup. Any deal would be subject to a federal regulatory review of how it affects farmers and consumers.

JUDY WOODRUFF: On Wall Street, a quiet day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost eight points today to close below 17493. The Nasdaq fell three points and the S&P 500 slipped four.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And swarms of insects are now threatening the Taj Mahal in India. Millions of flies are breeding in a polluted river that's nearby, and they're leaving behind green and black waste. That's forced crews to scrub the 17th century monument daily. Officials warn all that scrubbing will damage the building's famed marble inlay work.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And still to come on the "NewsHour": the Taliban's top leader taken out in Pakistan; a shift to the general election, even as Bernie Sanders campaigns in California; what an acquittal means for a Baltimore police officer in the death of Freddie Gray; and much more.